After such a major event such as Best in the World, Ring of Honor basically needed to start over with new storylines and a new direction. The most significant change obviously came with a new world champion in Michael Elgin who has decided to defend the world title on every show. This harkens back to the old days of ROH when Samoa Joe was defending the belt on nearly every show. Elgin is going to burn through challengers quite quickly (which leads me to believe his title reign isn’t going to be that long), and every show should have a nice clean ending. ROH house shows are never going to be the ballbusting events they used to be, but they need to contain some very good wrestling bell-to-bell in order to justify spending the same amount for an iPPV or more important VOD. Aftershock wasn’t exactly high on the list of priorities.
Michael Elgin started the show off as is typical of the new champion. Instead of waiting for the six man tag to take place in the main event, they attempted to invert the script with a quick 10 minute brawl to get the crowd up right away. Elgin and his boys War Machine (Hanson and Rowe) wrestled the Kingdom (Adam Cole, Matt Hardy, and Michael Bennett). Big chaotic brawl came before the match settled down into a traditional six man. Faces controlled early. Heels cheated and worked over Rowe. Pretty basic and non-descript match with a non-finish. The Briscoes interjected themselves and beat up the Kingdom before staring Hanson and Rowe down. Elgin challenged Hardy to a world title match later in the night which was accepted. Questionable finishes have been a motif in Ring of Honor since Delirious took over as a booker, and this was another example. A fun six man tag was given an uncreative non-finish instead of advancing the story in a way that gives someone a victory and progresses things. No-contests and interference should be used sparingly, not used as a bailout when a booker has nothing else.
Up next was a live edition of “The Fish Tank.” Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish are one of the best acts in the business going on right now. It’s been a year since this concept started, and really ROH has not used it to its full potential on television to get these characters over. Cheeseburger was brought in to be made fun of and to celebrate the anniversary. Fish picked up a quick win over Cheeseburger in a match where he put his half of the tag team titles on the line. Nothing wrong with this match except it felt perfunctory. At least it was short.
The first strong match of the night came when Cedric Alexander wrestled the other half of the Ring of Honor tag team champions, Kyle O’Reilly. After winning so decisively over Roderick Strong and tapping him to his own move, Alexander absolutely needs to be winning matches like this. I want to see O’Reilly get pushed but as one half of the tag champs, he can afford to take singles losses as ROH positions Alexander higher on the card. Some very good back and forth action. These guys went 15 minutes, and it felt like the perfect amount of time. This match served its purpose and didn’t wear out its welcome.
After eight months of being in existence, I’m not quite sure what the purpose of the Decade is in Ring of Honor. Other than abusing the young boys, they don’t seem to have any greater purpose. In fact, they’ve even mentioned titles as not being their ultimate purpose in Ring of Honor. Their frequent losses lately have only compounded this feeling of being lost in the shuffle. When a company does a poor job of developing characters and then storylines, you end up with what happens all too often in ROH, midcard wrestlers aimlessly having matches. The Briscoes (Jay and Mark) wrestled BJ Whitmer and Roderick Strong in a perfectly acceptable match. Briscoes are one of the most over acts in the company, so the heat is easy. Jay hit a Jaydriller on Strong to get the victory. Strong in particular doesn’t seem to have any direction right now, and after losing to Alexander at BITW, I think he could use some time away to get refreshed. Having been around for literally 10 years, sending a guy away for a few months would serve to freshen Strong up and get him away from falling into the midcard stale.
Jay Lethal has experienced a career renaissance in 2014 with a new heel persona that at least gets him away from all the numerous top babyfaces permeating the locker room. The finishes haven’t been the best thus far in some of these championship matches. His match with Watanabe was a Proving Ground contest, but based on the latter’s win/loss record, it’s pretty obvious who was winning. Watanabe is treated as a young boy jobber in ROH which is great for putting others over, but it’s tough to buy him as a serious world television title contender when he’s done nothing but lose. At just over 12 minutes, this was another perfectly lengthed match that featured some solid work and a clean finish. I’ve got a feeling Watanabe is going to be something in New Japan based on getting opportunities in the states and some of the improvements he’s making. Romantic Touch battled Lethal after the match. Then Matt Taven came through the crowd and attacked the champion. Pretty great babyface attacking a heel after both a match and a previous attack.
I’ve seen a couple tweets praising Tommaso Ciampa and Kevin Steen’s match as being great. I think this is a bit of an exaggeration. There was some good stuff here early with Steen grabbing the rope after every Ciampa armwringer. I’m glad these two had a match before Steen departs, but in another context, this probably would have indeed been a great match. This was the ROH style match with a good amount of false finishes and intensity being shown. It didn’t work at the level of some of the classic bouts, but this was worth checking out. Steen came away with the win, which is a great way to position Ciampa as a future world title contender by the way. Ciampa is another guy with little direction and a losing streak. Has a losing streak ever really benefitted or gotten over a wrestler? I guess it’s not as bad as when WWE does them, but sheesh. Ciampa is a guy who was hugely over at Final Battle, has the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. Since that show, ROH has done nothing but cut his legs out. A heel turn and having him go crazy is certainly better than losing every match, but this is a guy who could have been positioned for the world title after a dominant television title reign, and instead, he feels like just another guy. He will basically start over when he comes back from suspension.
Silas Young earned a world title match in a four way by defeating ACH, Tedarius Thomas, and Matt Taven. Look, if Silas Young is going to be pushed by ROH as an upper midcard heel, I’m going to respond positively. I’m not campaigning for him to be a world champion, but he’s been wasted the last couple years as a lower card geek when he’s a guy who can talk and wrestle as well as anyone on the roster right now. We also got a taste of Adrenaline Rush’s feud with some interaction between ACH and Thomas. Thomas is void of charisma, and even Jimmy Jacobs’s treatment of him after the match didn’t seem to get much sympathy from the crowd. Jacobs had given Thomas his spot in the match. With Thomas and Page both willingly being a part of the Decade, it’s tough for fans to sympathize. There’s literally nothing keeping them with the group, so their eventual departure and feud will feel anti-climactic. This was an okay match that in very typical four corner survival fashion, became more of a tag match than the crazy sprint which seems to suit these matches better.
I mentioned lack of creativity earlier when discussing the opener. More of that kind of thinking reared its ugly head in the main event when Michael Elgin wrestled Matt Hardy in Elgin’s first title defense. To say this was not a good first title defense was an understatement. This was a match that featured five run-ins and a ref bump. This match was a walking Attitude Era cliché, and Elgin winning the belt should have put an end to the nonsense. Cole, Bennett, and Maria’s interference should have been prevented right from the get go (preferably by War Machine) to set the tone for a new ROH. This was an absurd finale that featured Maria jumping on the referee, yet there wasn’t a disqualification. Instead of having a good wrestling match, someone obviously felt like throwing every booking shortcut that’s been done to death over the last ten years was preferable. Not a good start to Elgin’s title reign.
I was honestly getting into this show after the first couple matches. There was a good trio of matches before the four corner survival and main event took away many of those good feelings. Not a show worth recommending unless you can get it on deep discount.
-Taped from Hopkins, Minnesota
Commentators: Kevin Kelly and Larry Mercer
Michael Elgin and War Machine (Hanson and Raymond Rowe) versus Adam Cole, Matt Hardy, and Michael Bennett (w/Maria) goes to a no-contest/11:39/**1/2
Bobby Fish (ROH World Tag Team Champion) defeats Cheeseburger by pinfall after a running elbow/5:07/*
Cedric Alexander defeats Kyle O’Reilly (ROH World Tag Team Champion) by pinfall after a Lumbar Check/14:45/***1/4
The Briscoes (Jay and Mark Briscoe) defeat The Decade (Roderick Strong and BJ Whitmer w/Tedarius Thomas). Jay Briscoe pins Strong after a Jaydriller/12:59/***
Jay Lethal (w/Truth Martini)(ROH World Television Champion) defeats Watanabe in a Proving Ground match by pinfall after a Lethal Injection/12:12/***
Kevin Steen defeats Tommaso Ciampa by pinfall after a package piledriver./22:00/***1/4
Silas Young wins a four corner survival over Tedarius Thomas, ACH, and Matt Taven to earn an ROH world title match. Young pins ACH after Killer combo/9:38/**
Michael Elgin successfully defends the ROH World Title over Matt Hardy (w/Maria Kanellis) by submission with the crossface/19:32/**